As humans, we can often place a lot of importance on what other people think about us. And while some opinions and even constructive criticisms can be helpful in pushing us to grow, the judgments and prejudices of others can sometimes have a harmful effect on our mental health.
Even more alarming, those judgments can be especially dangerous when they are formulated about our mental health. If you’re a patient that has been diagnosed with a psychological condition, having to confront mental health stigma in your day-to-day life can be exhausting.
Why mental illness stigmas are dangerous
Stigmas are judgments or negative beliefs we hold about a particular person in light of characteristics or traits that individual shows. Additionally, we can sometimes use those beliefs as a justification to express prejudices or discriminate.
In a lot of ways, the prejudices we hold as a society about psychological illnesses ranging from depression to schizophrenia are just as dangerous as the ones perpetuated in the 1940’s, 50’s and 60’s.
Popular culture has presented extreme manifestations of psychological conditions and instability as the norm through the media and even television, when in fact the opposite is true. The extreme versions, such as the notion that someone with depression must be suicidal, are not necessarily the norm. Yet because the information we consume suggests that we should expect the extreme, we can often alienate others without fully understanding the uniqueness of their condition.
Unfortunately, some beliefs, such as the idea that everyone with post traumatic stress disorder is susceptible to violent outburst, can have dramatic effects on how people with those diagnoses are treated in social settings.
Much of what believe and fail to understand about mental illness can actually contribute the worsening of the condition in those with the disease. Fears about being perceived as “unstable” or “unpredictable” by others can cause many patients to put off seeking treatment, which can actually perpetuate the progression of the disease.
What you can do to confront mental health stigma
If you’re suffering from a mental health condition, or know someone who is, there are a few measures you can take to confront mental health stigma in your day-to-day life.
Get educated about mental health. One of the biggest driving factors behind any kind of discriminatory practice or belief is ignorance. Whether you’ve been diagnosed with an illness or not, read about and even ask your health care provider questions about your mental health and get informed. Know the symptoms associated with your illness if you are diagnosed and ask about the best treatment, behavioral practices and even health routines that can help tone down some of the signature signs of the disease.
Spread the word. If knowledge is power, sharing it is even more powerful. When a friend or a loved one makes a remark that you know is based on commonly held beliefs rather than fact, take a moment to kindly and patiently inform them of the facts. More importantly, gently question about them about their perceptions and ask them to take on the challenge of becoming better informed along with you.
If you need help, seek help. A big ramification of mental health stigmas is that they can make patients feel ashamed to seek help. The problem here is twofold: patients that don’t receive the help they need in a timely manner can get worse, and as their condition deteriorates it perpetuates the belief that mental health conditions come in extremes. Treatment is the most proven way to control psychological conditions and allow you to live a healthy life. No matter what anyone says, you can choose to confront mental health stigmas in your day-to-day life by choosing to seek help when you need it.
The opinions of others shouldn’t matter when it comes to your health. Your health is one of the most important facets of your life and that includes your psychological well-being. So chose to put yourself before the judgments of others and look after your mental health.